These days, it’s not very hard for a criminal to become someone else.
With a little time and software, criminals can break into websites to steal usernames and passwords. Or, if they want to save themselves the trouble, they can purchase complete identities — including bank account, credit card and social security numbers — for just a few dollars each on the so-called “dark web.”
So what can you do to protect yourself? And how do you put your life back together if you do become a victim? Here are a few tips for Alliance Direct Benefits members.
1) Get a Password Manager.
A lot of account break-ins happen because people use the same passwords all over the web. We all know we’re supposed to create strong passwords, change them often, and not use the same ones for every account. But who can keep track of all of that?
A password manager can. Password managers generate and store long, complicated, unique passwords for each website and app you use, and make them immediately accessible as needed. You only need to remember a main password to access the rest of your safely-stored passwords.
2) Double Down with Two-factor Authentication.
With two-factor authentication, a merchant sends a text to your cell phone after you submit your username and password. The text contains a one-time-use code. Since you need that code to complete the login, a criminal’s effectively blocked from your account. For extra security, use an authenticator app — instead of getting your code as a text which sophisticated criminals can intercept, the code only appears on the physical phone where the app resides.
3. Monitor your credit reports and credit score.
Thieves will set up new credit card accounts in your name, using a fake address. You never receive bills. You never know someone’s using your identity until unpaid bills and delinquency charges leave your credit score in ruins. You’re entitled to a free credit report every 12 months. Get yours now at AnnualCreditReport.com
4. Consider putting a freeze on your credit reports.
Before a thief can open an account in your name, creditors will check your credit report with one of the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. A freeze means you have to unfreeze the report before anyone can access it, making it that much harder to open an account in your name. By federal law, there’s no charge to freeze your credit report, however you will have to contact each credit agency individually to implement or release the freeze.
5. Don’t give out vital data over the phone.
Most legitimate organizations will not ask for social security numbers, passwords and PINs over the phone. If you get a call that seems legitimate, ask for the person’s full name and a number to call them back. Most scammers will hang up. If they don’t, take the information and contact the organization through their regular customer service channels.
6. Be especially careful with emails and text messages.
Criminals are very crafty. They can make texts, emails and web sites look exactly like those of any company you may do business with. Do not reply directly to these emails or texts — as with phone calls, if you think the inquiry may be legitimate, contact the company through normal customer service channels.
7. Alert authorities if you are a victim of ID theft.
If you become the victim of identity theft, report it to the Federal Trade Commission immediately. Call 1-877-438-4338 or visit identitytheft.gov. They will help you put together an recovery plan, walk you through its steps, and track your progress.
8. Use ID Theft Resolution Services.
If you’re IDs have been stolen, or you think they could be compromised, a theft resolution service can be very valuable. They provide you with a personal fraud specialist. Someone to help you prepare notification letters, work with government agencies and creditors, and stop fraudulent bills and charges.
Even if you only suspect that you could become a victim — a lost wallet or purse, calls or letters about accounts you don’t have — these services can place fraud alerts on your credit reports. They can also help you replace lost, stolen or destroyed identity documents: social security cards, birth certificates, passports and driver’s licenses.
ID Theft Resolution Services are also included with your Alliance Direct Benefits. If you have questions about these services contact us today, or visit the Alliance Value Plan page for more information.